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Laser optics enable view inside a fly’s eye

Mar 2013

New laser optics technology that supports high-resolution 3-D microscopy is providing a view into the interior of flies, mice and even medical tissue samples.

The technology and the optics in the ultramicroscope device were developed by Saideh Saghafi of the Technical University of Vienna. She turned a laser beam into an extremely thin two-dimensional laser surface, penetrating each layer and capturing a 3-D image of the inside of a fly’s head.

Interior view of the fly’s head in 3-D.

Biological tissues are opaque because the light is scattered at the interfaces between different materials. But for the laser beams in this technology to work, the tissue must be made transparent. The sample is treated first, and any water it contains is replaced with a fluid with different optical properties. This enables beams to penetrate deep into the sample.

Optical tricks are used to convert a conventional round laser beam into an optical beam, which is transformed into a layer of light about 1.5 µm thick. Excited by the laser light, an extremely thin layer of the sample begins to fluoresce, enabling the light to be picked up with a camera. Laser light is shone through the sample layer by layer, with an image being taken each time, to create a detailed 3-D image.

Dr. Saghafi Saideh of the Technical University of Vienna has developed laser optics technology that supports high-resolution 3-D microscopy. The technique can be used to provide a view inside flies, mice and even medical tissue samples. Images courtesy of TU Vienna.

Saghafi’s team used the technology to create detailed images of tiny fruit flies and the complex neuronal network in mouse brains.

Without the ability to have the laser penetrate the sample, scientists would have to cut the sample into thin layers and image each segment individually – a more time-consuming and less accurate process than could be achieved with the ultramicroscope, Saghafi said.

Saghafi received $5000 in optical products from Edmund Optics for this work.

For more information, see “ "Biomedical Researchers Win Edmund Optics Grants,”

An instrument consisting essentially of a tube 160 mm long, with an objective lens at the distant end and an eyepiece at the near end. The objective forms a real aerial image of the object in the focal plane of the eyepiece where it is observed by the eye. The overall magnifying power is equal to the linear magnification of the objective multiplied by the magnifying power of the eyepiece. The eyepiece can be replaced by a film to photograph the primary image, or a positive or negative relay...
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
A dark-field microscope used to view extremely small objects. These objects are suspended in a gas or liquid in an enclosure having a black background. A convergent pencil of bright light enters from one side and comes to focus in the field of view (Tyndall cone) to illuminate the objects. Thus, these objects, unable to be detected by the microscope, form small diffraction ring systems that are perceived as minute, bright specks on a black background.
3-DAustriabiological tissueBiophotonicsBioScancameraselliptical beamEuropefruit flyhuman tumorslaser beamsmedical tissue samplesmicemicroscopeMicroscopyneuronal networkNewsoptical tricksopticsphotonicsSaideh SaghafiTechnical University of Viennathin sample layerstwo-dimensional laser surfaceultramicroscopelasers

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